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Old 18th March 2022, 09:19   #61
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Default Re: 2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report

Day 9: Spending time with the Apatanis

The tribe we were staying with were the dominant tribe of the Ziro Valley (I assume). The Apatanis.

Quote:
The Apatanis, one of the major ethnic groups of eastern Himalayas, have a distinct civilization with systematic land-use practices and rich traditional ecological knowledge of natural resources management and conservation, acquired over the centuries through informal experimentation. The tribe is known for their colorful culture with various festivals, intricate handloom designs, skills in cane and bamboo crafts, and vibrant traditional village councils called bulyañ. This has made the Ziro Valley a good example of a living cultural landscape where humans and the environment have harmoniously existed together in a state of interdependence even through changing times, such co-existence being nurtured by the traditional customs and spiritual belief systems.
She was by far the most excitable little woman I had ever met in my life. Full of energy and love!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_021958504.portrait.jpg

I needed someone to complete me. I think I found her.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_024203407.portrait.jpg

If you notice, my hand was hovering over her shoulder. That's because her husband was standing with a machete behind the camera.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_051127370.portrait.jpg

This dude was so cool man. He swaggered in like Mick Jagger. He reminded me of Fonzie from Happy Days. He had such an Al Pacino X Robert De Niro vibe going on about him. I could devote an entire eulogy to this brother's style and suave.

I was wandering around the village and I happened to come by this sweet lady stitching a little something, probably for her grand daughter.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_051744434.portrait.jpg

We noticed a bit of commotion around the village now. Guess what? We were bang on time for the annual Myoko Festival! Wow! We didn't even plan this!

Quote:
The Myoko Festival is an annual celebration in Ziro Valley, especially by three indigenous tribes namely Diibo-Hija, Hari-Bulla and the Apatani. It’s a 10-day celebration; it goes on from March 20 – 30 every year. Myoko festival is celebrated to extend and strengthen the bond of the family, and bless the members with fertility and fortune. The most revered member of the community – the Shaman decks up in ancient Apatani garments and accessories and leads the proceedings. They slaughter pigs and chickens as a custom of this festival. This commences early morning; the Shaman recites long prayers and the women, mainly married ones, sprinkle flour and rice beer on the pigs which are tied to the bamboo poles.
2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_055917047.jpg

All the men had gathered to erect this gigantic pole. Every year, this festival moves from village to village, and this time - and our luck - it was right in our backyard!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_070653816.portrait.jpg

Putting the pole up and tying everything up was a HERCULEAN effort! We helped too. Once this pole is up, there's a little competition about who can climb up in one go and get to the top. A cash prize awaits!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_073442050.jpg


In this video, I explain a bit more in detail.


This awesome dude was doing it for the first time. Skills I tell you. No fear!

It's Friday, and I figured I'll end this little post with a picture of me on the little katoom on this trip. Goals I tell ya.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-img_20210313_175010_040.jpg
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Old 19th March 2022, 09:14   #62
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Default Re: 2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report

Day 9

Now that the "totem" pole was up, we were invited to lunch. As we were walking towards our host for the day, we came across this bizarre (for us) sight.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_071119329.portrait.jpg

This was a shaman's monkey skull. Used for their divinations.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_071137409.portrait.jpg

We would have our tryst with a full blown Shamanic ritual very soon!

Meanwhile, food prep was begun in earnest. Our very own Fonzie was at it with his machete.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_073727628.portrait.jpg

We finally made our way to the hosts. The food was SPECTACULAR!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_075521908.jpg

It was joyous to be sitting around with the people of the land, being a part of their conversations, sharing a hot plate of food, Apong (rice beer), and much laughter.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_075536327.jpg

This was my plate, because I was off red meat. Rice, locally grown fresh greens, eggs, and fish. Wow! After all those days of not eating on the roads to get here, we were finally getting our due and how!

Post this definitive lunch, I walked around the back of our host's house to explore, and I fell in love with this beautiful outhouse. Could I picture myself living here?

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_080629103.jpg

I went back to the main house, and here I present to you, the team that made lunch possible for probably the entire village. What a gorgeous bunch.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_081225103.night.jpg
Fonzie's always around with the ladies​

This is how the red meat is seasoned and dried. This is either Mithun, a wild bison/bull from these regions, or Pork? I have forgotten now.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_081352141.night.jpg

This is a handmade "dao" or knife. The handle is made of a "protected/endangered" carved animal bone. Illegal, so I can't shoot the owner with the Dao.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_082203014.portrait.jpg

Here's my mate holding it up.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_082134537.portrait.jpg
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Old 20th March 2022, 10:10   #63
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Default Re: 2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report

Day 10

If you remember, I was talking about "Mithun" in the previous post.

Quote:
"The gayal (Bos frontalis), also known as Drung ox or mithun, is a large domestic cattle distributed in Northeast India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and in Yunnan, China. Essentially inhabitants of hill-forests. In India, semi-domesticated gayals are kept by several ethnic groups living in the hills of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. They also occur in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In northern Burma, they occur in the Kachin State, and in adjacent Yunnan are found only in the Trung (Chinese: 独龙河) and Salween River basins. In Nagaland, the animals are kept semi-wild, and live in herds, being watched over by special caretakers assigned by the villages or the owner of the herd. They respond to a horn kept specially for the individual caretaker or actual owner to call them. From birth until the time of butchering or market, the Mithun remain in the herd, and roam mostly freely throughout the forests."
Well Hello.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_090057642.portrait.jpg

This would be one of the smaller specimens we would come across on this trip.

Our next visit was to an archeological and religious/spiritual site in the Ziro Valley. The ancient Siddeshwaranath Shiv Ling. This site was apparently discovered by a wood cutter centuries back.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_090322424.portrait.jpg

Standing over 25 foot high and 22 feet in width, this naturally occurring rock formation - viewed by Hindus and Buddhists alike as Lord Shiva - was the tallest such structure in the world.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_090358722.portrait.jpg

We spent some quiet time in the environs around the temple, soaking in all the cultural heritage from eons ago. The kind priest was happy to see us, and invited us to his little cottage for a cup of chai and biscuits.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_095125093.jpg

A huge and probably ugly super structure was being built around this natural formation of rocks. Why? Why do humans need to try and "beautify" or improve everything? What is this inherent need to stamp our own glory and will over nature? This wasn't going to be an improvement. It was going to probably be ugly AF.

On our way back to the village, I came up to this super old and rustic post office. I almost fancied sending home a post card from here, but didn't get to doing it. The Post office was shut!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_105713201.portrait.jpg

We stopped over at a new friend's home for a bit and got to meet their school going kids. Gotta love how bright and cute these kids are. Pure love.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_115405232.portrait.jpg

Talking about love, we had a new mother in the house too.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210315_130757165.portrait.jpg

Our bikes weren't washed since we arrived at Ziro, and they were atrociously full of muck.


I enjoy washing my own motorcycle or car. There's something physical going on, and your mind is centered on what you're trying to accomplish. A union of body, mind, and machine. And at the end of it all, you have a result you could probably be proud of.

The kids at the wash would have none of it though, and wanted to make sure the bikes were absolutely spic and span. We spent some time chatting with the kids, who were back from the big cities because of the the covid lockdown, and were making do with little jobs around home. I think they were happy that we actually made the effort to talk to them and hear about their lives.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_050413736.mp.jpg

Effort? Really? Effort from what? From constantly staring at our mobile phones? Seeing how many likes our latest picture got or who viewed our sordid story? When the real stories are going on every instant around us, we miss them for stuff dead and gone on 6 inch screens.

The day was cloudy, cool, and meditative. Just how I like my days. That's how the backyard to the wash looked like. It felt soooooo good not seeing dull and sulking concrete.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_044408612.jpg
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Old 21st March 2022, 09:26   #64
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Default Re: 2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report

This next log is going to be dedicated to one very special man, living in an obscure but beautiful corner of this world.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_061707917.mp.jpg

A phenomenal magician with his hands, and expert wood carver par excellence.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_062150835.portrait.jpg

He heads to the woods every other day and collects wood for his art.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_064209994.jpg

And he returns to create works of art like these.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_062617206.portrait.jpg

A hornbill.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_062759683.mp.jpg

I think these are the horns of a Mithun, or a wild bison, used to create this.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_063003671.portrait.jpg

He takes a few weeks for each such project of his.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_063148241.portrait.jpg

This is his rendition of an Owl. Just stunning, the details. From a single piece of wood.

He built his little workshop and home by himself, obviously.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_062321338.jpg

He also farms when not working on wood.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_061751846.jpg

His private altar. I couldn't help but stop and take a picture of this very personal space of his (with his permission).

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_071208479.night.jpg

As I walked through his home, and as I kept speaking to him, I was able to conjure a mental image of his personality. A simple man, living by himself on what the earth provides. Means no harm to anyone or anything. Humble and hard working. No luxuries apart from the fresh air, bountiful nutritious food he grows himself, clear spring water, a walk into the woods, and most importantly doing what he loves every single day. Does one need god? What is god? Here's a man living in every present priceless moment of his. He doesn't need god. God needs him.

Yes, such people do exist. Travel lets you meet such people. Travel makes you meet such people. Travel forces you to meet such people. Rips your mental constructs apart, about what is important, what's necessary, what's inconsequential, and, and...

And nothing.
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Old 22nd March 2022, 10:26   #65
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Default Re: 2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report

We said our goodbye's to the good man.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_065235700.portrait.jpg

We needed lunch and stopped at a "resort" closeby for an unnecessarily expensive meal.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_073820044.jpg

The scenery around made up for the price we paid however. Anyone fancy living here?

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_074001775.portrait.jpg

Just as we were wrapping up lunch, we got a call from Michi Bhai. Michi was the dude we met on our first day in Ziro as we were waiting to get picked up by our new friends. He offered to show us around the deeper confines of the Ziro valley - stuff that others could only dream of visiting. That was enough for us to wrap lunch as quickly as possible and rendezvous with him right away.

Our first stop was this.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_091936129.portrait.jpg

Here's Michi holding up the revered spade.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_091844115.portrait.jpg

This spade was kept in a small altar like space. No show case, no fencing, no lock and key. Total trust with the people who visit that it will not be desecrated and will be left as found. I truly hope the least number of "tourists" and instagrammers visit.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_091906249.portrait.jpg

Our next hop was the Ziro Airport. And a birds eye view of the valley from up there.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_095409288.pano.jpg

We spend about half hour rolling around on the grass there like a couple of overfed mithuns. No time to waste however, Michi had a schedule we had to follow. We were off to the Siikhe lake, Sii lake for short. This is a man made lake, created to encourage migratory birds who fly in from Tibet and Russia.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_103541773.jpg

I was hoping we were done with the regular tourist haunts. I wanted to see the real, hidden underbelly of Apatani culture. I made this known to Michi, and he understood my interest in anthropology very quickly.

We were off to the ancient burial grounds of the tribe.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_112941853.jpg

That is an altar erected over the burial spot. The skull you see, is that of a Mithun. Now the Mithuns, or the local bisons, are loved and venerated by the tribes of the North East of the country. Much like the Indian's of North America. In this case, when a member of the community dies, a Mithun is selected and "sacrificed" for 2 reasons. One, the Mithun's soul is said to help lead the soul of the dead to heaven. The path is said to be truly treacherous with many distractions, and thus a guide is absolutely necessary.

This reminds me of something I was taught by Michi when we were with him.

If at any point you are lost in the forests here, or anywhere else for that matter, do not panic. Find a Mithun, or the local livestock, which typically graze in the jungles. Follow them, and eat what they eat. There are a lot of wild berries, and mushrooms that grow in such deep forests, and you have no clue what is poisonous and what is not. If it doesn't kill them, it won't kill you.

Secondly, they know all the watering holes that abound. They will lead you to the closest source of water very soon.

Thirdly, at some point, these animals will venture back to civilisation or the nearest road head. With a cool and calm head, you should be back where you belong pretty soon.

This analogy does intertwine with the belief system that the Mithun will lead a dead person's soul to heaven. A very believable belief system.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_113009277.portrait.jpg

The other reason why a poor old Mithun is sacrificed for no fault of his is because everyone gets to feast and have a grand old party together, celebrating the dead's journey to heaven.
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Old 23rd March 2022, 09:14   #66
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A video shot and put together by my mate. Discover a typical Apatani Household in Ziro.

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Old 23rd March 2022, 11:21   #67
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Right next to the bigger Altar over the burial spot, we noticed this little shrine.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_113233328.jpg

The Shamans are a critical part of the social fabric of Apatani tribal society. What follows is a typical recital by the Shaman for Mithun's that are about to sacrificed during the "Murung" Festival.

Quote:
One of the most endearing aspects of an otherwise bloody sacrifice during the Murung festival is the point in a day-long recitation when the shaman tells each of several mithuns (a sort of bison) that it will soon be killed. The shaman raises his hand, holding a hollow gourd and a few bamboo sticks with pieces of ginger stuck on the ends, and tries to calm the animal. He first calls the animal by name and then intones these lines:

Listen, mithuns and cows!
We alone did not decide
that you would go down to the underworld;
That was decided by divinations
seen by a group of men;
Do not be afraid;
do not be anxious; The axe will fall swiftly,
like the rays of the sun;
The chicken liver divinations took you down to the underworld,
Where your sacrifice will bring us prosperity.
Source: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/...apatanis-56032

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_113219160.portrait.jpg

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_113417857.jpg

The ancient burial ground viewed from afar.

This here is a spot where a lot of the sacrifices for certain types of wish fulfilling magic is performed. I do not want to taint these rituals by calling them Black Magic.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_113652221.jpg

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_113713921.portrait.jpg

The vibes were certainly a bit eerie however.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_114453134.portrait.jpg

A lone mushroom in the forest. Not sure if it was "magic" or edible.

I felt the day drawing to a close. These experiences will certainly need some thought and pondering over. But we had one more person we had to meet.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_133838632.portrait.jpg

This man is a Shaman. But no ordinary Shaman. He was the Chief Shaman of the entire area and a very respected man. The Shaman tradition typically passes from generation to generation, father to son. But in some rare instances, when a man or a woman, in their childhood begin to display symptoms of otherworldly contact - they are automatically accepted into the mysterious world of Shamanism. We were deeply privileged and honoured to meet this wise man. And we had a surprise awaiting us in the form of a very personal shamanic ritual the next day.

Enough burials and voodoo. It was time to meet pretty girls!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_132945503.jpg

Who made everything happen for us in Ziro? Such pretty darlings I tell you.​

They made sure we got coffee, biscuits, and even a spot of Ramen before we left. Brilliant.

We had an even bigger surprise for the night when we finally made it back home.

The local women had decided to deck themselves up in the finest, and gather together to put up a marvellous traditional ritualistic dance!

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_152825176.jpg

We ended the night with a sumptuous and well earned dinner with the family.

2 months across the Eastern Indo-Tibet Himalayas | A KTM 390 "Adventure" | 2021 Report-pxl_20210316_162043575.night.jpg
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